I wonder if, for those of us who don’t work on the front line, we would ever choose to put our lives at risk to save others. To be honest, that’s a bit of a loaded question, because the point of it is the aspect of choice, and not simply duty.
If you were a doctor or nurse, for example, and we sincerely applaud you and your colleagues if you are, you may find yourself duty bound by the Hippocratic Oath to serve your fellow human beings, even at risk to your own life and that of your closest family. But would you choose it? If pre-Covid days you were given a glimpse into the future and shown what was to come, if you were told you would have no PPE, if you knew that you would be walking into certain death, would you do it to save someone else?
For those of us who don’t work on the front line, could we imagine for a moment being in such a situation and raising our hands to volunteer to save someone else? Not because it is the right thing to do, or because we have a sense of duty, or because we find ourselves in the situation and persevere through it, but would we knowingly choose to die, to save the life of another, even those people who don’t know anything about us, or care about us, or acknowledge what we are doing for them? People who perhaps have recklessly put their life in danger by not following the rules, and who didn’t care about causing harm to others? Do any of us care that much? Do any of us love others more than we love our own life even those who don’t realise what we are doing for them?
We are surrounded by heroes. Some of them, filled with fear, are persevering through a situation they didn’t and wouldn’t choose for themselves to be in, yet they are risking their lives to save others, and that is so humbling. Even more so, are the people who know that they will suffer, they will die, but they *choose* to save someone else and lay down their own life for the greater good. These people are astounding.
We’ve heard the stories of people, young men particularly, who chose to fight in the second world war to protect their country and the freedoms of those they loved. Some were forced to join the fight, others willingly stepped forth knowing that they were stepping into a horrific situation where they would be in constant danger, they would see people close to them killed and they would not come out of it alive, and if they did they would be maimed and traumatised, their lives changed forever, and not for the better. We regularly remember them and others like them, who lay down their lives to protect others. Regardless of what our thoughts are on war and politics, the sacrifice of others humbles us because it is so alien to our everyday motives for self-preservation and protecting our own lives, those of our families and shielding those closest to us from harm. Who among us can honestly say that we would choose to give up everything near and dear to us to save other people, people who may not even know or care what we personally did for them? How few among us can honestly answer ‘yes’! It is most likely that none among us, not even those front-line workers who find themselves thrown into this undesirable reality, would ever say yes. There have been times in my life, and I won’t go into details here, and perhaps there have been in yours, where I have been thrown into ‘fiery trials’ of immense pressure and personal suffering, and persevered through them, knowing that it was important to do so not only for myself but also for the good of others. But hand to my heart I didn’t choose to go through those painful trials. If for example it was the only way to help the people I love, then yes, I would choose that painful path, but if there was any other, easier way, then I would choose the painless path. There would be less growth, but there would be less pain also. Perhaps we would reluctantly ‘choose’ a difficult path because of the good that would come out of it for others and for our own characters, but it is highly unlikely that most of us would stick our hands up and volunteer to suffer.
So why have I entitled this post ‘true love’? Partly because our society exalts romantic love above ….well, most things really. If you consider the greeting cards you have seen in your lifetime, how many of them celebrated sacrificial love? How many of them were ‘thank you’ cards for brave men, women and children who put themselves at risk for others? I have never seen such a card that wasn’t hand made, and even then, before the Coronavirus, I’m not sure if I’d seen a hand made card celebrating sacrificial love. Perhaps this will change after this pandemic has passed. Perhaps greeting card companies will be printing cards celebrating the love shown by people who put their lives at risk to save others. Maybe as a society we will change the way we think about ‘love’.
Our society is obsessed with romance, and in a very selfish way. Yes, some may find ‘true love’ romantically, but how deep is this compared to sacrificial love that willingly chooses to put someone else first, even at great loss to oneself?
Just think about the vast majority of people who enter into marriages and relationships with a ‘try it and see’ kind of attitude. Think of how many lives have been touched by divorce. Think of the celebrity relationships that end because one partner no longer feels ‘fulfilled’ by the other. That’s not true love, that’s convenience, it is status, it is ‘how will this benefit me?’ Love that seeks its own benefit, is ultimately not true love, it is not the deepest or purest form of love, yet it is what we celebrate the most.
Why? Because it is prettier, it is sanitised, it makes for cuter Instagram pictures and Facebook posts!
Would people rather look at or be part of a love that sings of roses, and chocolates, blue skies, sunshine, candle-lit romantic meals, and happy company? Or would they want to look at the deeper, truer, steadfast love that never quits? A love that speaks instead of blood, sweat, tears, agony, anguish, immense personal pain, trauma, sickness, terror, fear, heartache, loss? Is this kind of deeper, truer love celebrated on greeting cards and Facebook posts? This messy, ‘ugly’, sacrificial, painfilled love that goes beyond, so far beyond the realm of ‘duty bound’ – it is a Love that *chooses* knowingly, intentionally, willingly, to suffer at great cost, for the sake of the beloved, even when the beloved is unworthy of such love, unworthy people like you and me.
Many of you will sadly go through your entire lives never experiencing first hand that kind of True Love, choosing instead to settle for the flowers and the fairy tales that will eventually fade, as beautiful as they are. But many among us have and daily continue to know first hand this True Love like no other, the most sacrificial and purest Love of all, and on Good Friday we do celebrate this love of blood, sweat, tears and agony, because it has changed our lives…not textbook, not religious change, but in reality. We celebrate the purest, truest agape (sacrificial) Love of all – that of God Who gave His Only Son as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for your sin, for mine that separated us from Him. That of The Man Christ Jesus Who knowing that the only way to rescue you and I was to suffer immensely. He chose The Cross….He chose you….the reality of His tangible presence, His True Love, has changed everything for me, and continues to.
This is Good Friday, and if you know that this commemorates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, for you, for me – you may wonder why on earth a day of darkness, pain, betrayal, agony, death, fear, blood, sweat and tears is celebrated as in any way ‘Good’. It’s one of the biggest questions you will ever ask in your life time. It is the day that True Love died…..but that’s not the end of the story, the Reality….and this Sacrifice has changed and continues to change the lives of people like me, and is an open invitation to every one to experience this True Love for the rest of their lives….it is an invitation that many people sadly will discard, for the sake of flowers and chocolates….the toughest choices were made by Jesus, but the choice still remains with each of us as to whether we will choose to welcome His True Love for us, or to discard His Pure Love Sacrifice for us individually.
When the time comes for me to die, I know I would rather have the love of blood, sweat and tears and sacrificial Pure Love holding me, than that of chocolates and flowers, that will melt and wither and do nothing for me. Yet the wonderful thing is none of us have to wait for death to experience the reality of this Pure Love now and everyday of our lives going forwards. Because it is not a Love that remains confined to the pages of a book, but the tangible, real Love that meets you at your worst, your messiest, your most unlovely, and chooses to go on loving you in a way no mere mortal ever could, a love that will never fail, forsake you or let you down. The difficult choice to love you like that has been made, and it will never be rescinded….but what will you choose in return?